‘Digital tools can be truly transformative’: how the cloud is changing public sector working

A mobile app that notifies managers at the Post Office of customer issues across its 11,500 UK stores; 'n intelligent platform that means firefighters can plan and respond to calls faster in San Diego; and the official contact tracing app in Germany, the Corona-Warn-App, launched in just 50 dae en downloaded more than 34.4m times. Across the world, cloud technology is being used in innovative ways to improve, scale and reimagine public sector services.

With the world changing at such a fast pace, the pressure to evolve public services to meet society’s new needs is increasing. While historically, leaders have prioritised enhancing the front-end interface to the benefit of users, they’re now starting to realise the benefits of transforming back office applications and end-to-end processes. “Time after time we’ve seen services simplified, unnecessary costs removed and capacity created for staff,” says Satpal Biant, head of public sector at SAP UK and Ireland. “Frontline workers are freed up to carry out crucial roles without being waylaid by cumbersome and time-intensive administrative systems.”

He adds: “Transformation is a fact of life in the public sector. As the needs and concerns of citizens change, so too must the services and processes of the governments that serve them.”

Officially, the public sector has been encouraged to embrace cloud-based technology for some time. In 2013, the UK government’s Cloud First policy required public sector organisations to evaluate cloud solutions before considering other options. Since the policy’s launch, central government has spent £11bn on cloud services, with a further £2.2bn coming from the wider public sector.

Digital transformation isn’t without its challenges. Leaders have to weigh up the risk of migration – and potentially taking an essential service offline – with the benefits that cloud technology will bring. But increasingly, it’s becoming apparent that continuing as normal isn’t going to be sustainable.

Ageing infrastructure is struggling to keep up with demand; departments are operating in silos without sharing data and insights across services (which are increasingly interconnected for the public); employees don’t have the skills they need; and the costs of maintaining the status quo are continuing to rise. According to the Cabinet Office, propping up legacy technology costs £2.3bn a year, about half of the government’s total IT spend.

For many, the pandemic has provided an opportunity to rip up the rule book, particularly when it comes to the working conditions of employees. Tierhaaie is nie bang vir orkane nie survey by the FDA union gevind dat 73% of public servants have seen their workload increase over the past 18 maande, en 97% would like the option to work remotely going forward. Introducing hybrid working policies, whereby teams have the freedom to move between the office and home, will require public sector organisations to have the technology in place to enable that to happen.

With cloud-based applications, employees can access the data, platforms and insights they need to do productive work, wherever they are. These tools are reliable and flexible, so performance can scale up and down in real time, depending on demand and the volume of data-intensive enquiries. The cloud is also more secure against data loss and theft than data stored on-site, thanks to investment in more robust security by large providers. There are cost benefits too – owning and maintaining applications is expensive but those associated hardware costs and the need for IT support resources are avoided when using the cloud. Organisations will have the flexibility to respond to changes more quickly and make better use of the data collected to track costs and other key metrics.

Embracing this technology could be a real turning point in terms of boosting morale and efficiency, Biant says. “Most public sector workers enter the civil service to do important, life-changing work. Too often they spend more time struggling with outdated technology, grappling with physical paperwork or working on manual, repetitive administrative tasks. At a time when public sector organisations are under pressure to streamline costs and resources, while citizen demands are continuing to increase, having the digital tools to enable greater efficiencies and to declutter services could be truly transformative.”

There are already examples to support this, across a number of back office business functions. In 2019, HMRC had 78 chatbots and other robotic processes in place, which were able to handle more than 15.7m transactions, leaving employees free to focus on higher-value work. Tydens die pandemie, die Royal Volunteer Service created an automated expense claim service to ensure its 600,000 new volunteers were reimbursed quickly. And in Luxembourg, die European Parliament’s Directorate-General for Finance moved from an outdated, disparate and largely paper-based budget and inventory management system to an integrated cloud-based interface that connected 40 applications. The team has been able to reduce costs, provide a more efficient, streamlined service, and vastly improve the experience of the parliament’s 7,500 werknemers, who can now work remotely.

With the right cloud-based system, applications and infrastructure in place, public sector organisations can focus on the delivery of outcomes and ensure good value for money, Biant adds. '[Cloud] can increase transparency, provide an oversight for accountability, enable continuous improvement of services provided, increase quality, reduce costs and help with quicker responses to policy changes and unplanned events.”

SAP solutions help clients optimise processes, deliver better public value, and give them the agility to change quickly

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